From Stillwater-Ponca City (OK) Ostomy Outlook April 1997:

Things I Have Learned from my Ileostomy

by Ruby Lingelbach, summarized from presentation to Stillwater-Ponca City (OK) UOA Chapter Meeting, 17 March 1997

My ulcerative colitis was diagnosed in 1952 after my second child was born. I was seriously ill for quite a long time. It was a hard time for me, as well as for Dan, who had extra responsibilities in addition to his regular teaching load. By the time we moved to Stillwater the disease was reasonably stabilized, but never completely subdued. Dr. Honska had Elizabeth Firebaugh come to visit me before my surgery on May 12, 1977.

Advantages of an ostomy:

The biggest advantage of having my ileostomy is that I am alive. Otherwise, I would have died in 1977. Secondly, I will never have diverticulitis... That is a problem in the colon and ileostomates do not have a colon. A 3rd advantage is that I do not have the worry of "Will I be able to hold this gas until I'm out of this crowd?" Ostomates pass gas like "normal" people, but it is contained in the pouch and can be let out at more discreet times. Another advantage recently discovered at one of our support-group meetings is that I can put drops into the pouch to lessen the odor--Wouldn't it be great if all "normal" people could do the same!

Another advantage is that I do not have to make a dash for the bushes when out on a rock hunting field trip. I have seen "normal" people do this more than once, and I can remember the misery of having to do so, and a time or two on a family picnic of not quite making it when I was the sickest. I do have to empty my pouch once in a while out on field trips... but it is not necessary to completely take one's clothes down. The pouch can simply be pulled out through an opened zipper and emptied.

Yet another advantage is that ileostomates do not have the colon to harbor the intestinal virus. A stomach virus is cause for concern, however.


  1. I would not be happy wearing a bikini bathing suit... but I didn't wear one before my surgery anyway. I can wear tight clothing, but do not care for really tight things. This is more for the comfort than a medical necessity.

  2. A real hazard to ileostomates is the danger of dehydration, so plenty of water must be taken along on any kind of outing.

  3. Ileostomates get no advantage from taking time-release medications. The medicine is out before it gets to most of the "time-release."

Things I have learned:

  1. The first thing an ostomate learns is a new vocabulary. Peristalsis is the wave-like movement of constriction and relaxation which propels materials along the digestive tract. Normally it moves easily and gently, but if a blockage occurs the movements are greater as the intestine desperately tries to get material moved along. In the fortunate incidence of material being freed on its own without hospitalization, expulsion is quite forceful. It is easy to understand why anybody with a blockage, or appendicitis, for instance, is in a lot of pain.

  2. I can see what I have eaten. Some ostomates do not like to see that, but I watched for blood in my stools too long to stop. Some peas and corn can come through whole, banana seeds are about 1/2 inch long, and blackberry seeds come through as blackberry seeds. Beets give a reddish purple tint to the pouch contents, and grape juice makes it so dark purple that it looks like "old" blood. Artificial colors come right on through with all their artificial brightness. The reds and yellows are OK, but a bright green from Lime coolade or jello is shocking on first sight.

  3. The ileostomate can easily see how fast food runs through, and that different foods do not mix together completely in the digestive tract. Many times there is a clear demarcation between the different colors in food. And when food is put in, it tends to push food out the other end.

  4. An ileostomate can see that digestive juices are a dark brownish/greenish color, and that it is heavy. Pouch contents after breakfast are generally nothing but the digestive juices.

  5. Ileostomates learn that the best time to change pouches is about an hour after eating, or before eating breakfast. Each ostomate has his/her own preferences, but I ordinarily change mine before bedtime to give the Stomahesive time to get set good without any type of clothing pressing on the area to be sealed.

My first prosthesis had a karaya ring but I developed an allergy to karaya, so I am now wearing the Active Life convex Durahesive ring by ConvaTec. It is expensive, but it stays on for 8 to 10 days in comparison to the 1-2 days for the karaya for me. I put Skin Prep on my skin for protection, and add a ring of Stomahesive Paste or Strip around the opening for added security. Ileostomates wear an open-ended pouch that has a special clip to seal it.

My ostomy has given me a life I never could have had without it. Before the surgery I discovered that when a person has only half enough blood and half enough red cells, that the slightest little something could be a major something. Even a simple headache became a "blockbuster," and there wasn't enough energy to do much or think much. Now I can do anything I can fit into a busy schedule--ride a bike, swim, walk, climb mountains, or pack in more rocks than are needed. I have a good full life that I could never have had without the surgery.

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Content last revised 1997-04-16